A Last Call From the Trenches

by Hamodia Staff. Published in the HamodiaPrime Magazine on August 28, 2019. It was based on an exclusive Hamodia roundtable and took place in Torah Umesorah. Reprinted with Permission.

The New York State Education Department’s (NYSED) attempt to impose detailed regulations on private schools has been an ongoing struggle of particular concern for the Orthodox community and its chinuch institutions.

Most in the community have read or heard of the importance of their participation in the public comment period that allows any individual with an opinion on the matter to make themselves heard to the Board of Regents, which will likely rule on the guidelines this coming fall.

With only days remaining to the comment period (it will close on September 2), Hamodia conducted a roundtable discussion at Torah Umesorah’s headquarters on the importance of participation in the process, as well as a general discussion of the threat the guidelines pose to yeshivos and reflections on the community’s response. Joining the roundtable were Rabbi Avi Greenstein, member of the executive committee of PEARLS and CEO of the Boro Park Jewish Community Council; Rabbi Dovid Nojowitz, national director of Torah Umesorah; and Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America. Rabbi David Niederman, president of United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn (UJO), participated by telephone.

As askanim and those engaged in chinuch, how would you characterize the severity of the threat that mosdos are facing, both from the proposed regulations as they stand now and from the very fact that NYSED has made regulation of yeshivah education a focus in general?

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Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel (Yitzy Engel)

Rabbi Zwiebel: In a very tangible sense, implementation of the new regulations would require just about every single yeshivah in New York State to dramatically change how they apportion the educational day between limudei kodesh and limudei chol. In some cases, it would require them to significantly decrease the number of hours and time spent on limud haTorah and, in certain ways, fundamentally transgress the mission for which they were established and for which parents entrusted their children to these schools.

In a more general sense, by acknowledging the authority of the State Education Department to tell our schools the courses they have to teach, how much time they have to devote to those individual courses, and the competencies the teachers who are teaching these courses must have, a school essentially gives control in these matters to the State Education Department.

That certainly seems to lead us down a slippery slope in which the State Education Department is likely to say that there are certain social values that are anathema to our community that we also have to impart.

Rabbi Nojowitz: I would just like to pick up on and elaborate on the last point that Reb Chaim Dovid made. Baruch HashemKlal Yisrael still maintains certain family values that much of the general society has thrown by the wayside. Those values are very much part and parcel of yeshivah learning for our boys and girls and to bring in the “progressive” ideas that are in the general community would be a threat to what Klal Yisrael is all about.

Rabbi Greenstein: Although I don’t believe they will succeed, still, the reality is that the existence of these regulations sets a precedent for government to make judgments about how our mosdos are educating our children and that is a big problem.

The general idea of having the government come into the yeshivos to do anything sends a message that yeshivos cannot be trusted and that the parents that send to those yeshivos are doing so out of either ignorance or irresponsibility.

So regardless of what anyone feels about the hashkafah or curriculum of a specific yeshivah, when government can dictate how a school is run, determine whether or not they are compliant, and then act on the consequences of that determination, that sets a very dangerous precedent in a free country.

Rabbi Nojowitz: Even in the public school system, if NYSED finds some failing within the school, they’ll give them five years to reorganize themselves and recalibrate what they’re doing. Those are schools where they know and understand their basic goals and the way they work.

They have no understanding of what a Torah school is all about, and yet, with the flip of a hand, the state now wants to come in and start making decisions on our behalf.

It’s interesting, all public schools basically are held to a certain curriculum by the state. Our yeshivos are very independent and yet, if you look at what goes on in them, 95 percent of what they’re doing is exactly the same and the reason for that is very simple: it’s because we are following a mesorah. Yet the state seems to think that without even getting to understand what our mosdos are about that they can run them better than we can.

Rabbi Niederman: Simply put, what’s happening here is terrifying. We know that learning Torah and keeping Torah is our life. And the Torah also says you have to learn when you can and you also have to make a living. Therefore, we understand that, in order to earn a livelihood, you have to know the language of the country that you live in, as well as certain other skills most people need to be part of the workforce.

After many decades of our mosdos operating, we have already seen generations of alumni and how much they have accomplished.

For government to now come and say that we will not allow you to run a yeshivah before you show us your curriculum and get it approved by us means that they are taking control. It gives them the power to decide if we can teach Yiddishkeit to our children or not.

This is something that we cannot compromise on, and therefore, all of us together are here to say one thing to government: “You should not implement any regulations that are proposed.”

We don’t have to give complicated explanations that it’s a slippery slope or the hours are unreasonable or what have you. Giving over the reins to government is in itself something that we can never allow, and for those of us who unfortunately have memories of societies that took away Jewish children to educate them as the state saw fit, it is terrifying.

By this point, most yeshivah parents are familiar with the idea of the public comment period that is rapidly coming to a close. For those who have yet to participate, please explain how you view the importance of a strong showing of concern from the community.

Rabbi Greenstein: As of now, we can say that there have already been tens upon tens of thousands of letters submitted to the State Education Department by members of all yeshivah communities. All segments, Sephardim and Ashkenazim, Chassidish, Litvish, and Modern Orthodox schools and parents have all answered the call. I would add that many from other private schools from outside the Jewish community, both religious and non-sectarian, have also mobilized to make their opposition to the regulations known.

So the message is very clear — this is an issue that riles up every single parent. This is something that people see as beyond making changes to a curriculum or introducing more secular studies, and more and more parents from across the non-public school spectrum clearly realize the potential implications these regulations could have.

I think another point that is important to emphasize is that it is not as if NYSED sat in a laboratory and one day decided to come up with regulations. This is a direct result of a sustained campaign of activists, and some in the media and some in political offices whose goals have nothing to do with our children knowing a little bit more of a certain subject, but everything to do with fundamentally changing our community. These are people who have hatred for our yeshivos and for our way of life. They are manipulating government and others in the court of opinion toward a narrative that parents who send their children to yeshivos don’t know what they’re doing and shouldn’t have the right to send their children to an institution that educates them to be Torah Jews. These people are also running their own campaigns to generate letters in favor of the regulations.

And right now, if anyone has not sent their comment to NYSED, they should know that the clock is rapidly ticking down. There are very few days left for you to act on your right and responsibility as a parent and as a citizen, to object to these
regulations.

We are very happy with the numbers we have produced so far, but every single letter makes the impact that much stronger.

Rabbi Nojowitz: Quite a number of letters that have been sent in are from yeshivah graduates who today are accomplished professionals.

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Rabbi Dovid Nojowitz (Yitzy Engel)

They got to where they are with a yeshivah education and look back and say, “Why are you interfering with the education we want for our children? We have left yeshivah, entered the workplace and achieved success in various businesses and professions and are still very satisfied with that education. So why bother to fix what our lives prove is not broken?”

Rabbi Zwiebel: I would just add that these letters actually do have an impact on the attitude of the members of the Board of Regents and on the members of the state legislature that we’ve been dealing with. The fact that such a large volume of comment from the broader public has been generated tells them that this is not a matter that they can deal with, as was mentioned before, with the backs of their hands. It has to be done with very careful consideration because there’s an entire community that cares deeply about the outcome.

I think that is what explains the ferocious level of response from our community. We recognize that what’s at stake here is the lifeblood of the Jewish people — how we transmit the mesorah from one generation to the next. There’s nothing more fundamental to our responsibility on this world than that.

Many people in state government, not necessarily from a malicious motivation, do not understand what this is all about and don’t appreciate the high level of importance that this occupies in our community. They think that schools are just being derelict in their responsibilities and I think that when people make their voices heard, it makes an impact on them and moves some of them to think about the issue more deeply. People should be aware that their voice does count.

Rabbi Niederman: For all the reasons that everybody said, we are appealing to the public to realize that now is your opportunity to do something about this issue. Government regulations take a long time to change, and what is on the books now was made 120 years ago. If these regulations are adopted, chas v’shalom, it could take another 120 years to change them and I am scared to think what we would do in the meantime.

What you are doing or not doing now is going to affect your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. I cannot overemphasize the urgency of the situation. Don’t put yourself in a situation to cry over spilled milk. Take action. It takes only a few minutes. Do it for yourself. Do it for your family. Do it for your friends and do it for Klal Yisrael.

Rabbi Zwiebel: I just want to add one other point which is important. Obviously, these regulations directly affect residents of New York State. But the precedential impact could very likely affect other states as well that might look to New York as a leader and would try to develop a similar regulatory process for their private schools, including yeshivos.

This does not only affect residents of New York State and comments are not limited to residents of New York State. So whether you live in New Jersey, Illinois, California, Florida, or wherever it might be, you too have a right and a responsibility to be part of this process.

Is the public comment process more a game of numbers, or does the content of responses really make a difference? And based on that, is it preferable for concerned parties to compose their own letters rather than submitting a prefab one through one of the portals set up by PEARLS (Parents for Educational Religous Liberty in Schools) or other organizations?

Rabbi Niederman: The size of the community’s showing is very valuable and if it is a question of using a portal to send a form letter or not sending, then by all means send a prefab letter.

That said, there’s no question that it is at least 10 times more impactful to write an individual letter. By law, individual letters have to be read and the issues raised have to be transcribed for the Board of Regents. They are not just painting with a broad brush and saying that 10,000 people sent this form letter in. Furthermore, it shows that somebody put in time and thought and didn’t just press a button; that shows that this really hurts him.

I can’t quantify the difference, but it’s a major one and it could have a real impact in the endgame.

Rabbi Greenstein: I think what’s incredible here is that we’ve seen groups of people come together and write letters. There was a letter signed by around 100 social workers. Others from people in different industries came together to explain how they feel about these regulations.

I think it says so much about people taking ownership of this, making this a true grassroots movement that any honest person should understand has to be dealt with very carefully.

Rabbi Zwiebel: Some of them are remarkably touching. I read one earlier from a baalas teshuvah who describes how much it means to her that she is able to send her children to a yeshivah and to give them the Jewish education that she was denied in her own youth.

I read another letter from a teacher who teaches both in the public school system and in the yeshivah system, and describes what a superior quality education is provided in his yeshivah. These letters tell a real story and make this a real human issue.

Rabbi Nojowitz: I would just add that while a lot of the letters are moving and passionate, the overwhelming majority that I have seen are also very respectful. This is an issue that most of us care deeply about and that we are probably angry about and yet there’s no rancor or attitude of “How dare you? Who do you think you are?” That came from somewhere. That respect, that derech eretz for authority is also an important piece of what a child learns in a yeshivah and I certainly hope that is something that comes across.

Do you have reason to believe that the Board of Regents will be significantly influenced by public comments, or that conclusions are forgone and the comments are a perfunctory step?

Rabbi Zwiebel: Based on conversations we have had over the course of the last month and half with members of the Board of Regents and based on just my general experience in working with governmental bodies, public comments do matter, especially if they are to the point and respectful.

I think that there is a political component to all of this as well. When they receive an avalanche of letters and emails from concerned citizens that exceeds their expectations so much so that it plugs up the works within the state education department considerably, that has ramifications. The Regents are appointed by the State Assembly who are elected by voters, so the voices of their constituents matter.

I also think, particularly in this context, where the Board of Regents is venturing into territory that it really doesn’t understand and doesn’t know very much about, that these letters will make them realize just how little grasp they have of what a yeshivah is. I’m hopeful and almost optimistic that the impact of everything that’s being sent to them will result in something that we will find a way to work with.

Rabbi Niederman: Most regulatory changes do not excite the public and so when they post something and get a few comments from a few interested parties, it could be that it doesn’t mean much. But I can’t believe that that’s the case here.

When so many people comment with a rationale and with passion, saying that to them this is a question of interference with my right to educate my children, they see that this is a contentious issue and I don’t think they can just sweep tens of thousands of letters under the rug and go about their business.

Our community for sure, and even some in the general public and the press, will demand and ask, “How did you address these concerns, and how do you believe that you have responded to the thousands of thousands that have raised their voices?”

When the regulations were first released, Hamodia interviewed Harav Yaakov Bender, Harav Elya Brudny, and Harav Yisroel Reisman, who all met personally with the now former Commissioner of Education, who heard their feelings on the topic. All of you work closely with Gedolei Yisrael regularly. Could you offer us some insight as to the approach that they have taken to this ongoing issue?

Rabbi Nojowitz: I recall at the very beginning, before anything was done, one of the members of our Vaad Roshei Yeshiva said to me that he does not recall in America in our times that there should be such a gezeirah of shmad, as he called it, as this one. The three Roshei Yeshivah that you mentioned have been the voices for all of us and they are sheluchim not only for the tzibbur, but for the Gedolei Yisrael and they are expressing the daas Torah that the Gedolim in general feel about this issue and making it known.

Rabbi Zwiebel: I would emphasize one point that has come up repeatedly at the meetings of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah and I think also at the meeting of the Vaad Roshei Yeshiva of Torah Umesorah, which is essential to understanding part of the dynamic here. This is an issue about the adequacy of secular studies in yeshivos. Some yeshivos have stronger limudei chol programs and some have weaker limudei chol programs.

When this first began, a question was raised about exactly what our strategy should be. One option was to focus on making sure that we can protect those yeshivos that have more thorough secular studies programs and find a way to navigate this issue for them with the State Education Department. This approach might not have been so simple, but we felt that we could have probably arrived at some positive resolution.

But as far as yeshivos that have more minimal limudei chol, they would have to accept responsibility for that and deal with the consequences.

This definitely would have been an easier road for the Agudah and the mosdos in its sphere to take, but the answer from the Moetzes was very firmly and consistently “No.” They said time and again that this cannot be allowed to be an issue of one group’s yeshivos versus another group’s yeshivos. We’re all in this together and we all have to see it through together.

They took this approach firstly because, in fact, the regulations as proposed would affect the entire range of yeshivos in New York, not just Chassidishe yeshivos, but even Modern Orthodox day schools; anybody with a dual curriculum would have to adjust their program significantly.

Furthermore, the issue is not really how many hours and which subjects. The issue is, who controls? Who makes the decisions in our communities? Should it be the government bureaucrats who are working off of a checklist of regulations that somebody has compiled, without really understanding what the yeshivos are all about? Or should it be the hanhalah of the yeshivah? Those are the ones who should be making decisions, together with the parents.

Rabbi Greenstein: When PEARLS was established in the summer of 2015, we put into our mission statement that we are an umbrella organization to protect the right of every type of mosad to operate according to the guidance of the leaders of the kehillah they are associated with. We are not here to question. We are not here to change, but to fight for the right of every mosad to function according to the principles upon which it was founded, in many cases with tremendous mesirus nefesh, dating back for centuries.

We’re all in this together. Many have committed tremendous resources and time to get PEARLS on the footing we are on today, and through all the ups and downs we have seen already, we are still in a place where yeshivos have independence. We are here to help every mosad. Our focus now is the letter-writing campaign and we are poised to follow this fight through to wherever it will lead us next.

Rabbi Niederman: The question was, what did we hear from our Gedolim and from our leaders? What we heard was that we accept that we are in galus and we are law-abiding citizens, who listen to and respect the authority of government. However, this is a gezeirah against the Torah and if they will try to implement this, we will not comply.

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Rabbi David Niederman.

The gedolim and manhigim look at these regulations not as something we can tweak here and there and deal with.

While those in state government might not view this as an attack on the foundations of Judaism and might have been convinced that they are just taking some steps to help us, we see very well that this was supported and campaigned for by a group of people whose clear and basically stated goal is to uproot our way of life and that is not something that we can compromise on.

While the community certainly wishes this matter would have never begun, it has engendered a great deal of achdus and an emotional outpouring of concern for the future of Torah chinuch in America. Please tell of some of your impressions regarding what you have seen and heard in this arena.

Rabbi Nojowitz: I’ve had some Roshei Yeshivah comment to me that this is a message for us to strengthen our commitment to Torah, that it shouldn’t be taken away from us, chas v’shalom. They recommended that one way to be mechazek Torah is maybe to let a seder be five minutes longer or to let the davening be five minutes longer, something to show the Ribbono shel Olam that we want the Torah. Their advice was that individuals and mosdos should do something in a practical way to show Hashem our chavivus for the Torah.

Rabbi Zwiebel: I know that in other countries, for example in England, where there are similar problems, and in certain ways, even more serious problems in terms of the governmental intrusion into what the yeshivos are supposed to be teaching, Rabbanim organized a massive atzeres tefillah for the entire community.

There has been some conversation about the possibility of organizing something on a massive scale in America, but at the moment, I can’t report anything specific. It could still materialize, but every Jew should certainly be keeping this issue in their tefillos.

Rabbi Greenstein: People call and write to PEARLS on a daily basis asking what they can do.

We’ve heard from parents and from shuls and yeshivos that have organized Tehillim for days of certain hearings. People dropped whatever they had to do and yeshivos stopped their seder hayom and went and davened for Torah chinuch.

There have been lots of conversations about specifics, but the concern and the achdus is something that is only growing.

Rabbi Niederman: I’ve seen times of tzarah when the tzibbur came together to daven. But on 17 Tammuz, when Satmar made its Yom Tefillah for this gezeirah, it was something I had never seen before. I was in Monroe and I came into the beis medrash; it was packed. People of all ages, older people, yingelach under bar mitzvah, all saying Tehillim with such a passion. It was unbelievable. I was really touched.

I called somebody in Williamsburg, and I figured, it’s a Sunday in the summer, who will be around in the city? But it was the exact same thing there, a packed beis medrash. What that means is that this touched a nerve in Klal Yisrael. That this is a gezeirah that the tzibbur cannot tolerate.

We said Avinu Malkeinu and I felt it was like Ne’ilah. That’s how people davened every piece, “Psach shaarei Shamayim l’sefilaseinu, aseh l’maan ollaleinu v’tapeinu.” It was unbelievable and the Ribbono Shel Olam will certainly hear it too.

Rabbi Zwiebel: As long as we are on the subject of Avinu Malkeinu and Ne’ilah, we have been told that the Board of Regents will not be discussing this matter at their September meeting, but that it will likely be on the agenda of their October meeting, which is called for Erev Yom Kippur.

Do you see this as an issue focused on schools and education, or do you see this as part of a broader issue of hostility toward Orthodox Jews and even to religion in general that we are seeing in our country?

Rabbi Zwiebel: I read an article in The New York Times about a lawsuit that was filed in Chester, New York, about a development that was being blocked by some of the local residents because they said they wanted to “keep the Hasidics out.”

Then I read another article, and this one I think may have been in Hamodia, about people who were attacked from behind for no reason whatsoever walking the streets of Williamsburg.

And then I read an article, back in The New York Times, about how there are yeshivos where children are being taught inadequately and how they have to be changed and totally revamped.

So, yes, I do see a line that connects all of these different things. I think there is a large-scale mugging of the Chassidic community in particular, and of Orthodox Jews more generally, by the society around us. I do think that we are living in a time when the incidence of anti-Semitism, and specifically, in the most pronounced way, [acts that are] anti-Chassidim, is at an all-time high.

And yes, I do believe that there are commonalities between these various things. Whether it’s attacks against bris milah or shechitah or kapparos or articles in the newspapers which are designed to portray our community in a very negative light, these all certainly highlight this point.

In an even more general sense, it should also be seen as part of the larger stream of how religious communities in the United States no longer occupy the position of prominence that they once did. I think in general, there’s a movement in the United States away from organized religion and that has come with a hostility toward organized religion.

Still, if you put this particular issue on one side of the scale, it still outweights the others because it affects the very core of what we are as Jews. Government wants to interfere with that and there’s nothing more dangerous than this.

Rabbi Niederman: Williamsburg is the center for anybody who wants to express themselves, either verbally or physically, against a Torah Jew. This is nothing new. But these attacks on the streets, everybody can see that they are pure anti-Semitism and calls them out as totally unacceptable.

Here, it’s more dangerous, because this attack on Orthodox Jews comes undercover. They can say that it’s a matter of complying with the law and that these laws were made 120 years ago and that it has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. They can say that you are a member of society and that you have to accept your responsibility to society. So even if we know what is at the bottom of it, it’s much more difficult to combat.

There indeed is an ongoing effort to uproot religion from life in general and there is a feeling that we just don’t appreciate the glory of “progressive values” and all of the debauchery that they advocate. It’s hard for them to come to terms with the fact that in the 21st century there are still people who are religious, but they are able to cover their attacks with civility and so we need much more rachamei Shamayim to fight it.

Rabbi Nojowitz: Sometimes the Ribbono Shel Olam has to remind us that we are in galus and maybe because we have it so good here in America, we have to get a reminder that we’re not at home here.

It’s all true that there’s a prejudice against Yiddishekeit and that the world is turning away from religion.

Some see the ehrlichkeit of how we raise our children and the family unity and some people can’t accept that we should live with our values and that we should pass them on to our children.

I’m afraid that one day the result of these things could be, they’ll tell us, we’re not allowed to have separate schools for boys and girls or that you can’t have a mechitzah in a shul. You can’t have these things, because it goes against what they want to see in their “progressive” outlook, and we are against that. They know that we oppose that outlook and they can’t tolerate it.

Rabbi Greenstein: If you really want to see what’s behind all this, look at the people who are the proponents of these regulations. There are unfortunately quite a few legislators and other prominent people from around New York State who have made a career of bashing frum Jews in the various ways. These are people who are out there now, “caring for our children.”

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Rabbi Avi Greenstein (Yitzy Engel)

Some of these people were raised in our community and unfortunately are no longer part of it; there are others who simply have their own issues and vendettas against Klal Yisrael and have latched onto this as a vulnerable target.

I want to repeat one story that happened a couple of months ago. I got a phone call from someone in the community, an individual I happened to know, who told me that he was calling me from the courthouse. He divorced his wife, who unfortunately is no longer frum, and his wife is using the argument that the yeshivos that the father would send them to do not provide education as a way of convincing the judge to give her custody of their children.

This is one of many potentially terrifying ramifications that could occur if going to a yeshivah places you on the wrong side of the law. You lose your right to act as a parent.

Can we take a closing thought from each of you?

Rabbi Niederman: It’s unfortunate that it took such a tzarah to do it, but it’s extremely encouraging to see how the tzibbur has been brought together.

One thing we know: Tefillas rabbim does not go unanswered and mesirus nefesh of the rabbim will not go unanswered.

The Kaliver Rebbe, shlita, who suffers from ALS, composed his letter to the Board of Regents using a computer operated by eye movements.

We just have to make sure we don’t compromise, and we tell government that we are grateful to this country that has accepted us and also to say that our founding fathers built this country upon a principle of religious liberty. Therefore, don’t do anything to endanger that principle, which is so essential to what America is.

Rabbi Zwiebel: The Torah obligates a person to teach his child a way to earn a livelihood, and the majority of Klal Yisrael will always have to do that, but that’s not the issue here.

We have said that a child who enters a school, whether it’s a public school or a private school, a religious school or a non-sectarian school, whatever it may be, that child should emerge with the basic skills that they need to be a productive member of society. That means certainly that communication skills— writing, reading, speaking, computational skills are all important and that’s something, I think, all the yeshivos are cognizant of.

There have been a number of concrete steps taken over the last number of years which have showed the yeshivos’ commitment to making sure that their children do have that kind of basic information.

I think people should not mischaracterize the position we’re taking over here as being in favor of having children grow up to be ignorant and not capable of being productive members of society.

A second point is that if we look to what our yeshivah graduates do when they leave the yeshivah, we can point to what I feel is a very successful record of producing people who have carved out careers in the business and professional world and are making parnassah for their families.

At the same time, I think we also have to remember that, when we speak about success, we don’t just mean material success. The ultimate success of the chinuch that a child receives in a yeshivah is that he should be a knowledgeable ben Torah. He should be someone who lives a lifestyle that makes him part of Klal Yisrael and being part of the Am HaTorah. That’s the way we measure our success.

If we have successful children who might not be as materially successful, who may not care as much about material matters because they have developed the ideals — to become mechanchim or long-term kollel avreichim, that’s a beautiful thing which we should be so proud of. That’s success. And the ones who go into the business world and the ones who go into the professional world but retain their connection to the Torah, that’s a kiddush Hashem, that’s success.

We shouldn’t allow ourselves to judge our own mosdos by exactly how many of our graduates go into professions, how many graduates become multimillionaires or whatever it may be. Let’s not forget the main purpose of yeshivah education and what we’re all really about.

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Rabbi Greenstein: One point which is very encouraging to the askanim and everyone who was involved in this entire issue is that this has really taken on a life of its own. People with talents and abilities have reached out to ask, “What can we do?” There have been individuals who are producing video clips urging people to sign up, others with graphics skill, others with other abilities, writing letters and so on. They are all doing what they can to help the cause. We’ve seen people going from bungalow colony to bungalow colony and shul to shul, mobilizing, helping parents to write these letters.

But we want to take this opportunity at this point to remind people, again, of the urgency of writing your letter and making sure those you know have done so as well. Take this on as your own project because it is your own project. It is your own children, your own yeshivos, and your own kehillos. And for others who have certain other abilities, talents, resources that can contribute to helping out, people who feel they want to be a part of it, they should know that we’re looking for them. We want them, we need them, and the only way we will succeed is by having full koach harabbim, with everyone coming together in all ways possible to help overcome this challenge.

Rabbi Dovid Nojowitz: I would just like to reiterate that this tzarah has built a tremendous achdus and hopefully we can take it from the time of tzarah to times of simchah and to times of great yeshuos for Klal Yisrael.

——

Below are two portals with sample letters that have been established to facilitate comments from the yeshivah community.

https://voice.yeshivosbychoice.org

https://www.voice.pearlsny.org

For those who prefer to contact the Education Department directly with their comments, below are the relevant mailing and email addresses.

Christina Coughlin, NY Education Department, SORIS, 89 Washington Avenue, Room 1075 EBA, Albany, NY 12234, (518) 474-7206, email: seregcomments@nysed.gov

Below is the contact information of Board of Regents members that represent areas with a significant amount of yeshivah parents. Their mailing address: State Education Building, 89 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY 12234, unless otherwise indicated.

Kathleen Cashin, Kings County (Brooklyn), Regent.Cashin@nysed.gov

Judith Johnson, Duchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester counties, Regent.Johnson@nysed.gov

Judith Chin, Queens County, Regent.Chin@nysed.gov

Roger Tilles Nassau and Suffolk Counties, Regent.Tilles@nysed.gov

Lorber Hall, Room 211 Long Island University Post, 720 Northern Boulevard, Brookville, NY 11548

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